My professional background is in live television production. If you know anything about live television once it happens its happened….there is no turning back. I like doing things right the first time, then being able to sit back and enjoy. So when it comes to beer post ferment I rarely doing anything else to the beer I didn’t plan from the get go. Sometimes I have thought about maybe adding a little of this or that to maybe make the beer better, but I never do. Last month I wrote about the 3rd runnings bonus beer experiment I did. The beer is still tasting great, but since it was an experiment from the start I thought I might mess around with the finished beer a bit.
I decided to see what the beer would taste like if the ph was lower. The ph level of the beer before anything was added came to 3.6. It had a nice lower level lactic sourness and a bit of Brett leaking through.
For the sake of providing all the info I can the temp of the sample was 69.7F.
Since this project would take place with carbed/cold conditioned beer I decided to use Food Grade 88% Lactic Acid to lower the ph. (This very potent acid is the same type you can use to bring down the ph of your mash if it’s too high.) I know of a few brewers that have said using Lactic Acid to “sour” a beer will give off a medicinal or harsh flavor. Accomplished brewer Jamil Zanisheff has likened using Lactic Acid to “sour” a beer to microwaving a steak. I would agree with both of those observations if the Food Grade Lactic Acid was the only form of ph lowering being used.
I didn’t have a dropper to use for measuring ml so I used a 1/8 tsp and did the test drop by drop. If this was a beer I was prepping for a competition I would seek out a dropper to really dial the levels in.
The sample I ended up liking the most was with 3 drops of Lactic Acid. Those drops gave me a ph of 3.3. The resulting beer is definitely on the next level for me. The beer seemed to perk up and become more lively.
A ph of 3.3 is on par with many commercial sour beer examples. According to Raj B Apte the ph of New Belgium LaFolie is 3.1, Cantillon Iris is 3.4, and 2002 Drie Fonteinen Gueze is 3.3. Generally speaking most ales are approximately 4.0ph. So I feel pretty comfortable with that ph level in my beer.
This was a simple experiment that really opened up my eyes to adjusting sour beers after fermentation. I was happy with the original beer, but I’m really please with the adjusted beer. As I said before I don’t think a beer done solely with Lactic Acid would be very good. When I used 6 drops the beer was indeed much more bitter/harsh. Not a beer I would enjoy drinking as it was off flavored and unbalanced. Real live cultures of bacteria/wild yeast and time still remain the way to go for producing world class beer, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with lowering the ph yourself after the fact. What’s a few tenths of a point between friends?